Composer of the month Franchises John Barry month

Soundtrack review: James Bond – Diamonds are forever (John Barry – 1971)

diamons

“Diamonds are forever” has another one of the most memorable Bond theme songs. Shirley Bassey unique voice gives John Barry’s music and Don Black’s lyrics just what they needed to turn into a powerful ballad. It is also one of the more easily recognizable and both the song and the title became part of popular culture. As in the case of almost every other James Bond soundtrack, there was trouble with this main theme because one of the two producers hated it and wanted it off the movie because of the innuendos in the lyrics. Again, as most other scores, this one had an original release and another one expanded with 8 more cues from the archives. I am reviewing this longer version for “John Barry month”. Let our journey in the wonderful world of Bond music continue with the score of the last movie starring Sean Connery. The story has our hero impersonating a diamond smuggler to infiltrate a smuggling ring and thus uncover a plot by his arch enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld to use diamonds to build a giant laser. Usual Bond stuff…

The music is playful in the beginning. It should be so, since “Moon buggy” plays for the silliest scene in the entire movie. How could we forget that antenna and those robot wings flapping? “Circus circus” is also fun and it’s interesting to hear John Barry’s usual sound smiling a big wider than usual. It’s unexpected but welcomed.

The maestro goes back to his more serious tone once “Death at the Whyte house” starts. Is it just me or is his Bond sound so clear, so unique that we could hear just 10 seconds of a cue like this and immediately recognize the character? I say 10 seconds because very soon the instrumental insert of the main “Diamonds are forever” theme appears and there would be no doubt.

The love theme “Bond and Tuffany” is a little too laid back jazzy for me. Yes it includes the ever present main theme but it sounds too much like lounge or elevator music to be interesting me. I could listen to it while doing other things and I wouldn’t miss much. Same with “Tiffany case”. The themes involving this character are too soft for my taste. I prefer “Death of Wint and Kidd” which just adds enough emotion to make it interesting. This time you wouldn’t guess the music was about some death scenes, I promise you.

I wonder if John Barry made a conscious decision to make the music of “Diamonds are forever” softer because the topic of the movie was jewels. Everything evolved in a more delicate environment. I expected thunders form a cue like “007 and counting” and got a fluffy composition once again. I think the score is a little spoiled by the sillier and more comedic nature of the movie. The Blofeld moments are the most exciting. The music has no place to hide there. There are parts I really enjoy in “To hell with Bloffeld” but not the entire cue.

The good thing about James Bond scores is that even if John Barry isn’t at his best, there’s always the “James Bond theme” and the main theme of the movie to save it. There’s no way a Bond score will be completely forgettable because of these two elements. “Diamond are forever” is one of my least favorite Bond scores but I still was able to listen to all 76 minutes of it with almost no trouble. It’s just that the soft jazzy sound that drives it wasn’t for me. This felt more like a collection of feel good jazz songs rather than a Bond story.

Cue rating: 72 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 6 / 76

Album excellence: 8%

Highlights:

Main Title: Diamonds Are Forever

Circus, Circus

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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